Penn State mourns passing of Milton J. 'Mickey' Bergstein

Milton J. "Mickey" Bergstein, whose 72-year relationship with Penn State began as a student and included 25-years broadcasting football and other sports, died Feb. 14 in State College, Pa. Bergstein, associate professor emeritus of marketing, was 89 years old.

He was a sophomore at Penn State in 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and he joined the U.S. Marine Corps the following September. He graduated from Penn State in three years and immediately reported to Officers Candidate School.

Bergstein was a member of the Marine Corps regiment that became famous after six of its members' were photographed raising the American flag during the World War II battle of Iwo Jima. He was badly wounded as a 23-year-old Marine second lieutenant commanding a mortar platoon the morning of the invasion. He and 22 of the 29 Marines under his command were either killed or wounded on the beach. He was promoted to first lieutenant and received five commendation medals and the Purple Heart. Bergstein retired from the Marine Corps Reserves in 1959 with the rank of captain.

After recovering from his war wounds at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital, Bergstein returned to Penn State and became an announcer at WMAJ-AM—State College's first radio station—and spent 25 years as an instructor in the Smeal College of Business teaching one marketing course. Later, he became WMAJ's general manager.

By 1950, Penn State football was generating enough interest that Bergstein and the Penn State Athletic Department put together a network of radio stations in Pennsylvania to carry the games. He served as producer of the small network and color commentator, including for a time in the 1950s with Pittsburgh Pirates legendary sportscaster Bob "The Gunner" Prince. Shortly thereafter, Bergstein began broadcasting the University's basketball games and wrestling and boxing matches. Bergstein continued broadcasting sports and managing WMAJ until 1975 when he joined Smeal as a full-time instructor until his retirement in 2001.

He was president of the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters and program director of the weekly Penn State Quarterback Club luncheon with Coach Joe Paterno.

Bergstein received his master's degree in communications from Penn State in 1950. He served as director of external relations at Smeal and helped lead the college's annual summer executive education program. He was a two-time winner of Smeal's Fred Brand Jr. Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and was named Penn State's Renaissance Person of the year in 1988.

His career also included about five years on the national speaking circuit as a featured speaker at approximately 150 corporate and industry gatherings. He also was invited on two occasions to give motivational talks to the assembled officer corps at two U.S. Air Force bases.

Always at the ready, his favorite story involved a call he received from Harry Rhoades, his agent at the Washington Speakers Bureau, asking if he could fly on short notice to address a large gathering of IBM sales managers and their customers in Austin, Texas. "I have to warn you," he quoted Rhoades as saying, "don't be surprised if your audience is disappointed because you are going to be the last minute fill-in for Ronald Reagan," who had just recently left the White House.

Bergstein authored two books, "Penn State Sports Stories and More" and "Living Among Lions."

He and his two brothers lost both their parents when they were quite young and were raised by Bergstein's aunt and uncle along with their own eight children.

Bergstein is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and his son, Andrew, instructor in marketing at Smeal, of State College; his son Michael and his wife of Milan, Italy; his grandson Ethan and Ethan's mother, Barbara Kasales, of Lemont, Pa.; and his sister-in-law Patricia Belser of Chevy Chase, Md. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Nan, and his two brothers.

Donations in his memory can be made to the Milton J. Bergstein Community Service Award—an annual senior award recognizing Smeal undergraduates for their service to the community—c/o 1 Old Main, Penn State, University Park, Pa. 16802.

Visitation will be held from 1 to 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 18 at the Koch Funeral Home in State College. The funeral will follow at 2:30 p.m. with his burial at the Centre County Memorial Park.

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Last Updated February 24, 2012